Last Updated: 12/21/2023

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, there were 29,188 crashes in Des Moines between the years 2004 and 2008. After a car accident drivers may experience both physical and emotional injury. Emotional damages range from relatively minor distress that people feel after an accident to severe mental conditions.

Emotional Issues after a Car Accident

After a car accident people commonly feel anger, anxiety, shock, irritability, agitation, and self-blame.  Sometimes the feelings manifest themselves physically in:

  • severe anger;
  • shouting;
  • loss of appetite;
  • lack of energy;
  • nightmares;
  • hypervigilance;
  • difficulty concentrating; and
  • forgetfulness.

Every person's mind and body has different ways of processing emotions and traumatic events. While some emotional responses to accidents pass, others may experience more debilitating conditions. This may be especially true after serious accidents involving severe injuries or fatalities. Some drivers, for example, might experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Those experiencing PTSD can have a variety of symptoms including:

  • hyper-alertness;
  • reliving the accident;
  • emotional numbing; and
  • avoidance. 

For example, the victim may avoid driving in cars or have flashbacks and hypervigilance while in a car. Others might experience depression or anxiety related to the accident as well as their injuries. Accident victims who suffer serious physical injuries may become depressed as a result of the injury. For example, a driver who suffers a spinal cord injury might also experience depression related to the effects of the injury.

Emotional and mental health conditions can cause limitations in patients’ lives, and may require treatment with mental health professionals. Auto accident claims should address these damages.

Pursuing Damages for Emotional Effects of a Car Accident

There's a distinction between economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include things like medical expenses and lost wages that are fairly easily quantifiable, while non-economic damages are monetary awards for emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life, and other intangible damages related to the accident, which might heavily rely on evaluating the effects of the plaintiff’s or claimant’s emotional damages.

If a car accident victim needs to seek mental health therapy or take medication for PTSD or another mental health condition related to the accident, these expenses can be covered in a personal injury lawsuit as economic damages. But it’s important to consider future expenses as well as those already incurred. Mental health professionals may offer insight on how long treatment will last so the parties can determine a fair amount for damages.

Proving the Damages

Claimants and plaintiffs pursuing car accident claims must prove causation, i.e., that the accident led to the damages. The accident victim might provide testimony about certain emotional damages, for example. Accident victims can also keep a journal of their emotions and feelings after the accident to use as evidence as well as a way to cope. In many cases, medical records from mental health professionals and other professionals can establish the condition arose from the accident.

We know its hard to take the next step after experiencing emotional distress and other mental health conditions after an accident but you should consult with a qualified car accident attorney to discuss how to quantify such damages when pursuing compensation. Walker, Billingsley & Bair helps accident victims in Des Moines and nearby communities pursue fair compensation that accounts for all of their damages. Contact our offices at (888) 435-9886 to set up your free initial consultation.

Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.